Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather to stand down from Parliament in 2015

The former Children's Minister has told the <em>Observer</em> that she feels Nick Clegg's party no longer campaigns sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather has announced, via an interview with Toby Helm of the Observer, that she will not be seeking re-election to Parliament in 2015.

She cited disappointment with her party's stance on immigration and social issues since joining the Coalition among the reasons for her decision, as well as the impact on her own life and wellbeing. In a statement on her website, she said that her differences with the party "have been getting larger rather than smaller".

She told the paper:

I don't want to say it is impossible for other people to do it, but for me, with my resources, with who I am, with my constituency, I personally can't see how I can make this sustainable for the next 10 years and behave like a normal human being that I like.

Teather was elected as the MP at the Brent East by-election in 2003, overturning a 13,000 strong Labour majority to take the seat for the Lib Dems in what was considered to be a backlash against the Labour government's support for the Iraq war.

She was appointed Children's Minister on the formation of the Coalition, but was sacked during a reshuffle in September 2012. She subsequently spoke out against the government's benefit cap.

The timing of Teather's announcement - in the run-up to the Lib Dems' conference in Glasgow - and her decision to make it in an interview with a national broadsheet looks calculated to cause the maximum possible discomfort for Nick Clegg. She attracted a lot of criticism for voting against the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act earlier this year, and some commentators have suggested that this has attributed to her decision not to seek re-election.

A spokesperson for the Lib Dems told the Observer:

Of course we are disappointed by Sarah's decision.

The Liberal Democrats have a proud record in government, including cutting taxes for working people by £700 and lifting the poorest paid out of tax altogether; helping businesses create a million jobs; investing billions more in schools to help the poorest children and introducing radical plans for shared parental leave.

Sarah was a part of this when she served as a minister in the coalition, as well as playing a key role in ending Labour's disgraceful policy of locking up children for immigration purposes.

Sarah Teather at the Lib Dem party conference in 2011. Photo: Getty

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.